DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

The Princess and the Frog, Blu-ray 3-Disc Combo Pack (2009/2010)

Disney’s return to hand-drawn animation is a complete success.

Published on March 14, 2010

The Princess and the Frog, Blu-ray 3-Disc Combo Pack (2009/2010)

The Princess and the Frog, Blu-ray 3-Disc Combo Pack (2009/2010)

Disney animation feature
Directors & Writers: Ron Clements, John Musker
Voices include: Anika Noni Rose, Keith David, Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard, John Goodman
Music: Randy Newman
Studio: Walt Disney 102610 [3/16/10]
Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 1080p HD (incl. all extras)
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio, English & English SDH 2.0 DVS, French & Spanish DD 5.1
Subtitles: French, Spanish
Extras: Separate DVD and Digital Copy of feature discs, Deleted scenes, The Making of a Princess, Conjuring the Villain, The Return to Hand-Drawn Animation, The Disney Legacy, Disney’s Newest Princess, Bringing Life to Animation, Art Galleries, Music video by Ne-Yo, Princess Portraits Game, Audio commentary track by filmmakers (on DVD only), BD-Live, more
Length: 98 minutes
Rating: *****

Disney’s return to hand-drawn animation is a complete success, coming from the pair of directors of both The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. Pixar’s John Lassiter was also involved in production, so you know this animation isn’t going to fall flat. The Disney and Pixar groups were brought together for this production, and the fine results show how sensible that was. The musical score by Randy Newman is a delight; it doesn’t seem a bit tacked-on or forced as some animated musicals have been. He captures the trad jazz and Cajun influences beautifully. The characters move very naturally; one of the extras shows the live-action footage they shot of dancers for the animators to follow. They didn’t rotoscope it, but just used the films as reference points for how to move their drawn animations.

The story line takes the fairy tale of The Princess and the Frog thru a number of twists.  It’s set in New Orleans in 1925, with a black “princess” who is really a waitress – Tiana – working very hard to save up money to buy and open her own restaurant.  Visiting Prince John, from some obscure country, lets himself get hornswaggled by a voodoo villain, Dr. Facilier, and turned into a frog. When the talking frog convinces Tiana to kiss him, the expected transformation doesn’t happen. Instead, Tiana also turns into a frog. Their adventures to get their spells removed take them to the mysterious bayous and include meeting a lovesick firefly, a jazz trumpet-playing alligator, and a blind old lady voodoo queen who dances like gangbusters.

Prince John does look a lot like Aladdin, and Tiana like some of the other Disney princesses, but everything works beautifully. The backgrounds are especially detailed and interesting, and using the massed fireflies for various color and light displays – including fireworks – is great fun. The story is based on the struggle and travails of the less fortunate to achieve their dreams, but there is plenty of humor too. I loved the alligator finally getting to play jazz with the big boys because it was Mardi Gras and they thought he was wearing an especially-convincing costume.  Classics such as Bambi provided the model for some of the image design in the feature. The dark shadows of the "Friends from the Other Side" flitting thru the bayou reminded me of the evil spirits in Night on Bald Mountain in Disney’s Fantasia.

The fine details of both the images and lossless surround tracks exhibit all the advantages of Blu-ray. And it’s great to have all the bonus features in HD too.  I have to grouse a minute about the previews on all Disney DVDs – they tend to go on forever, and sometimes even the chapter-advance button is unsuccessful in getting you to the start of the actual feature on the disc. Also, I don’t know why anybody needs three discs, but I suppose there’s a market for that third digital copy with the current absurd trend to watching movies like this on those tiny mobile devices.

 - John Sunier




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